Audit Form - Welfare of Cattle in Feedlots (Updated November 2014)

Feedlot__________________ Auditor________________ Date__________ Contact Person __________________

Cattle handling in squeeze chutes. Items 1, 2, 3 can be scored at the same time. Score a minimum of 100 cattle.

1. Electric Prod Use - Percentage of cattle moved through the entire system without an electric prod. 90% acceptable, 98% excellent. No electric prods in the crowd pen. People must not constantly carry them.

X = moved quietly, no electric prod ________ Percent electric prodded
P = electric prod, score P if even touched with an electric prod
B = animal balked or backed up ________ Percent balking or backing up indicate a facility problem


Animal # 1__2__3__4__5__6__7__8__9__10__11__12__13__14__15__
16__17__18__19__20__21__22__23__24__25__26__27__28__29__30__
31__32__33__34__35__36__37__38__39__40__41__42__43__44__45__
46__47__48__49__50__51__52__53__54__55__56__57__58__59__60__
61__62__63__64__65__66__67__68__69__70__71__72__73__74__75__
76__77__78__79__80__81__82__83__84__85__86__87__88__89__90__
91__92__93__94__95__96__97__98__99__100__

2. Cattle Exit Speed Score - Percentage of cattle that walk or trot out of the squeeze chute. 75% acceptable and 90% excellent. Fail if more than 2% fall while exiting the squeeze chute. Cattle that run or jump when they exit the squeeze chute will have lower weight gains. Score walk, trot, or run like the gaits of a horse. Any gait faster than a trot is counted as a run. Handling should be evaluated to determine if handling practices need to be improved or whether the problem is cattle temperament.

X = walk or trot out quietly ________ Percent walk or trot
F = fall or stumble ________ Percent jump or run
R = run or jump out (does not include small hops) ________ Percent fall down or stumble

Score a fall if the body touches the ground. Score a stumble if the animal's knees touch the ground while exiting the squeeze chute.


Animal # 1__2__3__4__5__6__7__8__9__10__11__12__13__14__15__
16__17__18__19__20__21__22__23__24__25__26__27__28__29__30__
31__32__33__34__35__36__37__38__39__40__41__42__43__44__45__
46__47__48__49__50__51__52__53__54__55__56__57__58__59__60__
61__62__63__64__65__66__67__68__69__70__71__72__73__74__75__
76__77__78__79__80__81__82__83__84__85__86__87__88__89__90__
91__92__93__94__95__96__97__98__99__100__

3. Squeeze Chute Operation Score - Percentage of cattle that vocalize (moo or bellow) within one second after being caught and during entry into the squeeze chute. DO NOT score vocalization in response to a person touching the head or ear. Vocalizations induced by prodding with an electical prod must be scored. When cattle are handled quietly, they will seldom vocalize in the single file leadup chute.

X = correct with none of the faults ________ Percent quiet
VO = Vocalize in direct response to either excessive squeeze
pressure or in response to bars being closed
across the face
________ Percent vocalize
B = Bars closed across face or banged on the head ________ Percent bars on face
T = Too Tight - If it is impossible to force four fingers
between the squeeze sides and the animal. Four
fingers should be able to be inserted with difficulty.
________ Percent too tight
M = Caught around the midsection with headgate or leg caught


Animal # 1__2__3__4__5__6__7__8__9__10__11__12__13__14__15__
16__17__18__19__20__21__22__23__24__25__26__27__28__29__30__
31__32__33__34__35__36__37__38__39__40__41__42__43__44__45__
46__47__48__49__50__51__52__53__54__55__56__57__58__59__60__
61__62__63__64__65__66__67__68__69__70__71__72__73__74__75__
76__77__78__79__80__81__82__83__84__85__86__87__88__89__90__
91__92__93__94__95__96__97__98__99__100__

A survey conducted at 56 commercial feedyards by Kansas State University has shown that scores at the excellent level can be easily attained. The average scores during cattle handling for routine processing are show in the table below.

Electric Prod use 4% of the cattle
Falling while exiting the squeeze 0.2$ of the cattle
Tripping or slipping while exiting the squeeze 1.8% of the cattle
Vocalization while in the squeeze chute prior to procedure 1% of the cattle
Jumping or ran out of the squeeze 6% of the cattle
Miscaught in the squeeze chute 0.2% of the cattle

A survey of cattle handling in 28 feedlots in Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado. 100 cattle scored in each feedlot.

Electric Prod Use Average Percentage of Cattle Range Best and Worst Score
Falling while exiting the squeeze chute 0.5% 0% to 2%
Stumble during exiting, one or two knees on the ground 6.7% 0% to 28%
Vocalization in the squeeze chute prior to procedure 1.3% 0% to 6%
Miscaught by the headgate 2.2% 0% to 16%
Running during exiting 30.7% 2% to 75%

Minimum Acceptable Passing Score
Actual Passing Excellent
3a Vocalization 5% In direct response to pressure when caught or electric prodding in leadup chute 1%
3b Bars on face 5% 0%
3c Too tight 0% 0%
3d Miscaught 2% 0%

Relief value must be set so that the squeeze sides automatically stop squeezing before the squeeze is too tight. Animal must breath normally.

Additional Measurements that will show that handling procedures are low stress cattle handling

  1. When Animals are restrained in the squeeze chute their eyes remain soft and dark. When cattle are stressed, the whites of their eyes will show. This is a sign of fear stress.

  2. Cattle that start chewing their cud shortly before or after handling are calm and not stressed. Fearful, stressed cattle will not chew their cuds.

  3. Cattle that keep their heads down are calm. They raise their heads when something alarms them.
The use of these positive measure is really important for improving stockmanship. When handling is really done well, a high percentage of catle waiting in line to be moved to the squeeze chut will not be showing any eye whites. Their eyes will be dark.


4. Mud Score - Two separate scores for mud in pens and mud on cattle. Score as Pass/Fail per pen and on a numerical ranking score for manure on the cattle. Score 10 pens picked by the auditor off the map in the office BEFORE the feedlot is toured.

A. Pen Mud Score - If mud is over ankle deep in most parts of the pen, the pen fails. Ankle deep is approximately 4 inches (12 cm) or just over the top of the hoof.

Pen Mud Score

Pen # 1____2____3____4____5____6____7____8____9____10____
B. Cattle Mud Score - Estimate a mud score for all the animals in each of 10 pens. The estimate is an average of the animals.

1 = Clean animals with some mud on feet and ankles.
2 = Mud on the legs above the knees. Sides and belly clean.
3 = Belly of the animals has mud cakes on them. Sides are clean.
4 = Belly and sides of body have mud cakes on them.

Average mud score for animals in each pen.

Pen # 1____2____3____4____5____6____7____8____9____10____


5. Numerical Ranking Score for Condition of Facilities A. Loading and Scale Areas - Check all facilities.

Excellent 1. Well maintained. No broken gates or fences and a rough, non-slip floor or rubber floor mats.
Acceptable 2. Rough, non-slip floor, 95% of gates and fences in good repair.
Not Acceptable 3. A few slick areas on the floor and 10% or more of gates drag on the ground or are difficult to open or close.
Fail 4. Slick floor in loading ramps or scale. Fences and gates in state of disrepair. 25% or more of gates drag on the ground or are broken and difficult to open and close.

Name of Area Rating Score
Area 1
Area 2

B. Squeeze Chute Working (Processing) Area and Hospitals - Includes surrounding pens.

Excellent 1. Well maintained. No broken gates or fences and a rough, non-slip floor or rubber floor mats. All parts on squeeze chute are in good repair and work. For Excellent, must have full washdown capability and be clean.
Acceptable 2. Does not have to have full wash down capability but must be scraped clean and trash picked up. 95% of gates and fences in good repair. Must have rough non-slip floor or rubber mats.
Not Acceptable 3. Slick floor in a few areas. 10% or more of gates drag on the ground or are difficult to open or close.
Fail 4. Slick in front of the squeeze chute is an automatic fail. This can cause cattle to fall down and be injured. Many fences and gates in state of disrepair. Area dirty with little evidence of cleaning.

Name of Area Rating Score
Area 1
Area 2
Area 3
Area 4
Area 5
Area 6

Did any hospital chute or working (processing) area show any evidence of being used for dehorning or surgical castration? Evidence is scrotal sacs, testicles, cut horn pieces or blood spots sprayed on walls, fences of headgate.

Pass/Fail
6. Heat Stress - Examine records for evidence of summertime death losses in heavy cattle that weigh over 900 lbs (400 kg). These are the animals most likely to have heat stress deaths. Usually there will be a summertime cluster of dead, heavy animals when the cause of death is heat stress. Fail if a cluster of heavy weight death losses is found in the records. English and European breeds are more susceptible to heat stress than Brahman or Brahman cross cattle. The manager must demonstrate steps to reduce heat stress. Heat stress in cattle can be measured by counting the breaths per minute. Under 60 breaths per minute or 10 breaths within 10 seconds is the normal respiration rate. Welfare would be poor at 120 breaths per minute and at 150 breaths per minute the animal may be in danger of fatal heat stress. There are great individual differences in cattle susceptibility to heat stress. Any individual animal that exhibits open mouth breathing is heat stressed. When the tongue is extended, heat stress is very severe. Cattle that exhibit open mouth breathing MUST be provided either shade or sprinklers to provide heat stress relief. Heat stress may be more likely to occur in cattle fed beta-agonists such as Zilmax (Zilpaterol) or Optaflexx (Ractopamine). When normal cattle breath their head will remain still.When they are in a pre-heat stress state, their heads will start to bob up and down. Cattle that start to head bob should be carefully watched for further signs of heat stress.
7. Castration - All calves entering the feedlot that have been castrated must be fully healed. Suppliers should castrate calves at the earliest possible age. The only castration method allowed on the feedlot is bloodless high tension banding. Recent research has shown that this method does cause stress and it must never be considered as a painless stress free method. Check for scrotal sacs and bloody trash in the squeeze chute area. Knife castration is an accepted agricultural practice on ranches and properties, but it is likely to cause sanitation problems at feedlots.
8. Dehorning - No dehorning or tipping cutting of horn tips on the feedlot. Suppliers should dehorn calves before 4 months of age. All dehorned animals must be fully healed before entering the feedlot Check for blood spots on chutes, walls and fences in the squeeze chute area. Removal of horns by banding should not be permitted.
9. Earmarking - No earmarking by cutting the ears or wattling cutting of dewlaps in the feedlot. Suppliers should be told to avoid these practices.
10. No branding of feedlot cattle unless legally required by law. No jaw branding. The use of eartags is recommended.
11. Aborting Heifers - Aborting heifers when the fetus is recognisable as a calf is prohibited. Fails if fetuses are seen in pens. Late term heifers should be pastured.
12. Care of Calving Heifers - Examine hospital records Must either euthanize the calves or sell or give them to employees. If the calf is kept it must be allowed to receive colostrum from its mother. Selling newborns at an auction is not permitted. (Less than five days old)
13. Excessively Wild Cattle - Walk through ten pens of cattle that have been in the feedlot at least 60 days. If the cattle scatter and run to the back of the pen when the auditor walks through the pen, a feedlot employee needs to acclimate the animal to people on foot. Acclimating cattle to people on foot helps to improve welfare during transport and slaughter. Fail if any one pen of cattle scatters and runs away. Another way to identify wild cattle is exit speed scoring. If 50% or more of the cattle run out of the squeeze chute when they are handled quietly with no electric prods, the cattle are excessively wild. When wild cattle are handled quietly, most animals will enter the squeeze chute at a walk or trot and many will run out.
14. Condition of Water Troughs - Pass if clean. Fail if dirty with manure or show no evidence of recent cleaning. Check 10 troughs. Nine out of ten must pass.
15. Bellowing Weaner Calves - This is failed if the auditor hears a pen of young calves which are constantly bellowing and mooing (vocalizing). These calves were not preweaned from their mothers before leaving the ranch of origin. Calves should be pre-weaned 6 weeks prior to arrival at a feedlot to improve welfare and reduce sickness.
16. Nutrition and Welfare, Laminitis (shovel foot) - Fail if you see any group of cattle anywhere in the yard with hooves that are double the normal length. Fail if more than 1% of the cattle in any single pen are lame, stiff, or reluctant to move. Use published lameness scoring systems and look for animals that appear "sore footed." Lame or stiff animals may have feet that look normal. This may be more likely to occur in cattle fed beta-agonists such as Zilmax (Zilpaterol) or Optaflexx (Ractopamine).
17. Cattle Driving in Yards - Fail if cattle are moved faster than a trot. Fail if handlers yell and scream at cattle.
18. Truck Loading Density - Are trucks loaded according to National Institute of Agriculture (LCI) and American Meat Institute (AMI) guidelines. If not observed, write not observed. Pass if loaded at correct density.
19. Truck Driver Handling - Pass if loaded or unloaded quietly without electric prods. Seventy five percent or more of the cattle should move at a walk or trot. Fail if handlers yell and scream. If not observed, write "not observed" (See truck audit form).
20. Spaying Heifers - Fail if you see heifers with evidence of flank spaying incisions. Unless documentation is provided that an anesthetic was used. Other less invasive methods of spraying do not require an incision and their use should be encouraged.
21. Condition of Horses and Horse Housing - Fail if horse corrals have over ankle deep (over the top of the hoof mud), or dirty water trough. Also fail if a horse is emaciated, has totally neglected feet (double the normal length) or shows signs of neglected saddle sores.

General Welfare Requirements

Failure on any one of these general areas is an automatic FAILURE of the entire audit

Pass/Fail
A. Downers and Non-Ambulatory Cattle - The entire audit is failed if non-ambulatory cattle are dragged or transported off the premises of the feedlot. They must be euthanized at the feedlot. To pass there must be a written policy on non-ambulatory cattle and evidence of an employee training program.
B. Euthanasia - Non-ambulatory, severely sick cattle that will not recover or emaciated debilitated cattle must be euthanized on the feedlot with methods approved by American Association of Bovine Practitioners or the American Veterinary Medical Association. The most practical, acceptable methods are gunshot or penetrating captive bolt applied to the middle of the forehead. The audit is failed if the firearm or captive bolt stunner cannot be found or is obviously dirty and not maintained or the employee in charge of euthanasia is not able to demonstrate by pointing, the correct shooting position on the forehead.
C. Cull Cattle and Chronic Sick Cattle That Do Not Recover - If there are cattle that are transported to slaughter, they must be fully ambulatory. To pass this audit, records must be kept on disposition of chronic sick cattle that are not marketed with their penmates.
D. Employee Training - The management must show the auditor materials that they use for training employees on cattle handling, handling of non-ambulatory cattle and animal welfare. The audit is passed if the management presents records and materials that are obviously being used.
E. Obvious Cruelty - The entire audit is failed if an auditor sees any act of obvious cruelty such as inserting an object into the sensitive parts of the animal such as eyes or anus, dragging nonambulatory cattle, beating a horse or bovine, slamming gates on purpose on an animal or an employee loses his temper and hits a horse or cattle. Clearly an act of self defense does not count.

Score Totals

Rating Percentage, Ranking Score - Pass/Fail
Measurements During Handling in a Squeeze Chute
1A. Percent electric prodded
1B. Percent balking and backing up
2A. Percent walk or trot
2B. Percent fall down
3A. Percent vocalize
3B. Percent bars on head
3C. Squeeze too tight
3D. Percent miscaught
4A. Average of 10 pens mud score
4B. Average cattle mud score
5A. Maintenance - Average loading and scale area
5B. Maintenance average processing and hospitals
6. Heat stress
7. Castration
8. Dehorning
9. Ear marking
10. Branding
11. Aborting heifers
12. Care of calves
13. Wild cattle
14. Water troughs
15. Bellowing weaners
16. Laminitis or lame stiff cattle with feet that appear normal
17. Cattle driving in yard
18. Truck loading
19. Truck driver handling
20. Spaying heifers
21. Condition of horses
General Requirements
A. Non-ambulatory cattle
B. Euthanasia
C. Cull cattle
D. Employee training
E. Observed acts of cruelty


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Click here to get more information on T. Grandin (2009) Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, CABI Publishing..